Busy, busy, terribly busy

Whenever I hear the word 'busy' I immediately have the words to the Veggie Tales song in my head:

Archibald (Mayor): I'm busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You've no idea what I have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you.
Larry: Oh, I see.

Archibald and Doctor: We're busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You've no idea what we have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you.

'Cause we're busy, busy, frightfully busy
More than a bumblebee, more than an ant.
Busy, busy, horribly busy
We'd love to help, but we can't!

This is on my mind because of something that happens all the time.  Whenever someone hears I have nine children or already knows and is just making small talk, one comment is inevitably, "Oh you must be so busy!"  The speaker is always surprised when I reply, that no, I'm not really that busy.  The comment doesn't annoy me (bemused would be more accurate), but it has got me to thinking.

What do we mean when we say that we're busy?  Busy can mean that we keep ourselves occupied; that we don't spend inordinate amounts of time lounging around doing nothing, or it can mean that we are oppressed by our schedules of outside commitments that leave us little time at home.  While I am good at keeping myself occupied and don't lounge around much (though on sunny, warm days, I have been known to do just that), but I do try to ruthlessly limit outside commitments so that I can concentrate on making a home for my family.  I have learned that nothing makes me feel more stressed and barely holding it together than to have to be in and out of the house on errands or at appointments all the time.  I enjoy being at home.  I enjoy having the time to do the things required to make a home a welcoming and enjoyable place.  I enjoy having time to spend with my children and other people.  I don't get bored and enjoy the slightly slower pace of life.

What baffles me is that being busy has somehow become a badge of honor.  Many women (and men) like to complain about being busy.  But sometimes that complaint rings a little false to me and I wonder if the person doesn't like it so much, why don't they do something differently.  Would the world end if one less class or sport was signed-up for?  Or one less obligation agreed to?  Or one less committee joined?  (Gasp!  I realize this is near to sacrilege in some churches.)  And if a person does these things because they enjoy them, then why complain?  Wouldn't it be better to be truthful and say that one is looking forward to doing something, or excited about it, instead of a false weariness as if it is 'not done' to express enjoyment?

Of course jettisoning commitments and obligations means that there will suddenly be free time.  What does one do with that?  Our society almost seems to say that free, unscheduled time is wrong.  That it means we are not being productive (whatever that means) and thus not valuable.  Those with free time are looked down upon because obviously, they are not important enough, or worthwhile enough, to be busy.  Busyness is a status symbol.

Well, just like the fancy car and exotic vacations, it is a status symbol I can quite happily live without.  I like having the time to spend talking with my children.  I like to have time to get the household tasks done and still be able to engage in activities I enjoy.  And I really like having the freedom of schedule so that if a friend calls unexpectedly and needs to talk, I can say without hesitation to come on over.  I have time to spend with the people I care about and offer help and hospitality to those in need.

I am occupied in interesting and important things, but I am certainly not busy.


Mrs. Deem said…
My husband and I often talk about being, "sinfully busy."
Gretchen said…
I am so conflicted about this post...

In my professional life, I need the stress of a pile of projects in order to perform well. (I was one of those students who wrote her best papers with the deadline looming over her head.) So, in my office, the chaos of busy-ness is what keeps me doing my job. (Although to be honest at the moment, I am too busy and it's becoming a problem.)

But at home...I HATE the sense of obligation to keep everybody scheduled like crazy, and I refuse to do it. I hate hate hate the soccer mania of the suburban town I live in, plus the constant dance/gymnastics go-go-go. I hate it and I hate that so many kids in our neighborhood are too busy to go outside and just play. I have joked to the neighbors that I would like to see more "free range children" - but I'm not really kidding.
susieloulou said…
I'm happy to not be busy, but I would like to manage my time better. Like Gretchen, professionally I perform much better under looming deadlines. But my work is a small part of my day and I DO have time to talk to kids, pick up and/or deliver things for busy family members, go to lunch on a whim with my dear dad, and I love it that way!
Ann said…
I would like to read this post--but I'm too busy! Hope to catch up later!
Jamey... said…
I certainly grew up where Busy was the thing to be and pretty much the mark of being a good mother. I have three kids four and under and so at home I stay on my toes, but often I have to fight the feeling that I'm supposed to be busy/stressed with outside obligations and I'm not. It's so weird to feel like I need to apologize for the choices that I made that I like!
Anonymous said…
Amen! I recently read a post that has bothered me ever since by a working mother with small children. When she discusses her way-overloaded schedule, I can see a lot of things that could be cut out (besides quitting her job). But maybe she really likes it that way? I prefer to take the slower pace and path, and really enjoy the blessings I live with!

Margaret said…
Great article!! I totally agree! I truly feel that people measure their self worth on how busy they are! I keep asking my husband if we can move somewhere that is slower pace (we live in the Washington, DC suburbs), but I don't know if that type of place exists anymore! After reading your article, I think that we just have to MAKE it happen wherever we are!!! It's great to see that others think like I do. I always say that the 'Art' of visiting doesn't exist anymore. I love nothing better than just sitting with friends and family and enjoying a cup of coffee or tea and each others company!!

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